The Homegrowns Stole The Show
It was a Homegrown kinda night at DICK’S Sporting Goods Park on Saturday as the home side cruised to a comfortable 3-1 win over Houston Dynamo FC for their third-straight victory.
The evening began with the news that Homegrown defender Kortne Ford would return to the gameday roster for the first time since the end of the 2018 season. It’s been an incredibly long road back for the 25-year-old after a series of knee injuries over the past two seasons and securing a spot on the bench marks another milestone. Here’s to the next step, and actually seeing Kort back on the field in an MLS match.
The on-field festivities were also set in motion by a Homegrown, as Sam Vines finished off a lightning-fast end-to-end sequence starting all the way back with goalkeeper William Yarbrough who played winger Michael Barrios in behind the defense. Barrios' first touch was perfect into the box and then the winger slotted it back for Vines who slammed home the finish for his second-career MLS goal.
“I saw Mikey take off and you know Mikey is going to beat his guy, he’s going to get to the endline and get a cross in so once he took off, I took off," Vines said "I saw Diego [Rubio] run towards the near post, he took everyone towards the near post to open up space, and Mikey placed a perfect ball to the top of the box, and I was able to just slot it home, so credit to Mikey for getting in behind and making that run and credit to Diego for making the space for me to have an easy finish.”
Vines' goal was just the start of the party on the Homegrown front.
Homegrown Cole Bassett’s goal in the 42nd minute marked his second in as many games and moved him into first place on the all-time Rapids’ Homegrown goalscoring list with ten total to his name. He passed one of the ‘OG’ Homegrowns, Dillon Serna, for the top spot.
“Cole was again a tremendous amount of energy and work for us, which he always is. What he’s done over the last year or so is figure out how to be really effective with that work,” head coach Robin Fraser said. “He gives us so much in terms of putting pressure on the ball, making things predictable for the guys behind him, but then on the attacking end he’s in the middle of the field. The part about him that gets the attention is that he gets in front of the goal and he gets in front of the goal a lot.”
Both of Bassett’s goals this season have sprung from the pure amount of work he expends either in the press or making runs crashing in on goal at the perfect moment. Last week against Minnesota, his full-sprint into the mix was based on the hope he could capitalize on a rebound and he did. Against Houston, he pressed goalkeeper Marko Marić several times early in the contest, and then on the third or fourth occasion, he timed his run perfectly, and in an instant he had deflected Marić's clearance into the back of the net to restore the Rapids' two-goal advantage.
“He’s constantly looking for it, and the goal tonight was obviously a culmination of those two things: his willingness to work defensively and his desire to be in front of the goal,” Fraser said.
Bassett’s movement across the field over the course of a match is incredible to watch, and in his two most recent appearances that movement has drawn comparisons to that of Seattle’s Nicolas Lodeiro. The 19-year-old has also been compared to England and Chelsea great Frank Lampard for his late goal-scoring runs. Combine the traits of those two, and you have one incredible player. The fact that Bassett has already cemented himself as one of the top Rapids Academy products speaks volumes about the player and the person. The sky continues to be the limit for #26.
An MLS Debut 10 Years in the Making
The final word of the night goes to a player who admittedly didn’t have a massive impact on the scoreline. In the 90th minute, Homegrown midfielder and Denver native Oliver Larraz subbed on for captain Jack Price. Larraz’s appearance marked the eighth Development Academy product to appear for the club in an MLS match.
In that moment, there were a trio of Homegrowns on the field, as Larraz (19) joined Vines (21) and Bassett (19) on the field to cap a dominant win.
“It actually goes back to about a year ago when Ollie first started training with us," Fraser said. "He made an impression pretty quickly within the team and the guys have a lot of trust and faith in him, so it was good for him to come in this year as a signed player, start preseason, go through a preseason, go through some of the ups and downs. He’s not played a lot of games in the last number of years so preseason was great for him to have opportunities to play and he’s just continued to work hard and work well, and he’s a talented, talented player."
Larraz joined the club at age nine and worked his way up through the system, even serving as a ball boy for MLS matches on occasion. When a Homegrown (or any player) makes his professional debut it’s as big a moment for the coaches, parents and mentors as it is for the player, but for a local Homegrown player to make his debut in front of the home fans and capture three points is as cool of a moment as there is. One of those coaches and mentors who helped Larraz reach his milestone moment was none other than Rapids legend and Altitude Sports color analyst Marcelo Balboa.
“When you make your debut, it doesn’t matter where you do it, but it’s more special when you’re home in front of your family, it’s just something, it’s just the love,” Balboa said during the live broadcast. "He’ll remember this day for the rest of his life.”